It’s not that I’m unsympathetic with the folks who have grown increasingly angry at the number of Mets and Yankees games that have wound up on streaming services this year. Not everyone wants all those services. Not everyone can reasonably afford those services. I really do empathize, especially for folks who rely on baseball to help them through difficult times and circumstances.
When I was growing up, the locals weren’t on TV every single game. In 1975, WOR Channel 9 telecast 100 Mets games. WPIX-Channel 11 did 90 Yankees games. And that was before cable entered the picture. Once Mets games and Yankees games were snapped up by SportsChannel, unless you had cable those numbers dwindled.
And we didn’t get cable for years.
And you know what? We survived. We survived because we relied on radio, and by viewing radio as a pleasure rather than a forced alternative, we experienced the games in a way that even TV couldn’t present. When Vin Scully passed this week, so many tales were told of his importance to converting Southern California to a baseball haven, a learned voice who was available — for free — every single day for six months.
That’s what it was like as a baseball fan in the ’70s. Did we prefer when the games were on TV? Of course, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting that.
But it was also just as fine to tune in a Yankees game on WMCA-AM or the Mets on WNEW-AM. In some ways, it was better. Because while the announcers on TV were there simply to serve as stewards for what we were already watching, when they took over the radio booth they understood there was more responsibility attached to the job than that.
So Lindsey Nelson would have to explain the difference between a terrific catch and a routine one; Ralph Kiner would explain why the ’78 Mets reminded him of some of the woeful Pirates teams he played for; Bob Murphy would develop an odd-but-wonderful signature home run call: “It may go, let’s watch!” We couldn’t, of course, but Murph always did his best to make us believe we could.
Phil Rizzuto always did much of his best work on the radio, as evidenced by his call of Roger Maris’ 61st home run that lives into eternity. He knew he couldn’t wander aimlessly between pitches, and he rarely did. Frank Messer was 100 percent professional and efficient, and Bill White was an authoritative presence with an eye for detail and a knack for making that accessible to every listener.
This was how so many baseball fans used to come of age. I never did a scientific study of this, but I always figured that the average ball fan in the ’70s and ’80s learned their baseball this way: 30 percent from father/mentor; 30 percent from various Little League coaches; and 40 percent from the men who talked baseball to you — and, at their best, with you — every single day, six months a year. Seven, if there was an October involved.
Of course, if there was October, those games were all available for free on TV. But sometimes even then you’d have to adapt. I remember listening to at least three innings each of all the Yankees’ night games during the ’76 postseason on the radio in my room — bedtime was bedtime, after all.
I was driving back to college from a mid-semester break during the entirety of pivotal Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS. I didn’t see a pitch. And it didn’t much matter because we were able to follow it on the radio — except during those aggravating stretches on Route 17 when radio reception was a bit sketchy. But memory insists we only missed a few pitches. It was a car loaded with Mets fans; nobody felt even a little cheated.
So yes, I get it. The streaming services have forced you to make some choices. And I’m here to tell you that you still have good ones — on WFAN with John and Suzyn, on WCBS with Howie and Wayne. And yes, once you grow comfortable with your radio voice, you really do feel like you know them on a first-name basis.
They’re friends, after all. Bringing you baseball day after day, for six months. Seven, if we’re lucky.
It is worth remembering that the Yankees were still on a 106-win pace entering Saturday’s game in St. Louis. There’s a reason just two teams in history have won as many as 116. That’s an absurd pace.
Jay Hook, who earned the Mets’ first-ever win (9-1 over Pittsburgh, April 23, 1962), hopes to throw one pitch at Old-Timers’ Day on Aug. 27. There will be 30 of his family members at Citi Field, all wearing his old No. 47. “It will be my way of thanking everyone for their support,” said Hook, who will turn 86 in November.
I hope we’ve seen the last of Gene Takovic (aka Jimmy McGill, aka Saul Goodman) in the workplace, because every time I see the magic of Cinnabon at work, my blood sugar spikes about 100 points.
I’ve just got a funny feeling the consensus opinion of Daniel Jones is going to be 180 degrees different in four months than it is now.
Whack Back at Vac
N. McD: Monty vs. German. History repeats.
Vac: I think we have the leader in the clubhouse for WhackBack of the Year.
Frank Giordano: Paige Bueckers from UConn has been a player to watch. Unfortunately she will be out for the year with a torn ACL. She plays the game like it’s supposed to be played. I think we should all hope Paige Buckets comes back soon.
Vac: There was a lot of depressing sports news this week. Seeing that Bueckers news might’ve been the worst of the bunch. Such a great player.
@brittan98793876: Being a Mets fan is like being in a Rod Serling script. “Twilight Zone” every inning. But I love it.
@MikeVacc: The eighth and ninth innings Thursday night, I think a lot of Mets fans felt like William Shatner staring out the window of the plane.
John Tesauro: Gerrit Cole has too many stinkers in my opinion. Despite the hype, he has not been the same pitchers since they cracked down on the sticky stuff. His debacle against the Red Sox in the playoff game doesn’t show an ability to rise to the occasion. Cole is no Scherzer, no Verlander. I fear the Yanks are in trouble if they need to count on him for a critical win.
Vac: It’s a 100 percent fair take. And it’s on Cole to do something about it. Sooner, preferably.